India has once again pressed for the devolution of powers to the provinces under the 13th amendment (13A) of the Sri Lankan constitution and the system of provincial councils as a meaningful step towards better representation of the island's Tamil minority.
During a meeting with Eastern Province's former chief minister Sivanesaturai Chandrakanthan and former lawmaker Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan, India's deputy high commissioner Vinod K Jacob on Tuesday discussed bilateral cooperation and implementation of the 13th Amendment.
"Deputy HC Vinod K Jacob held separate meetings with delegations led by hon'ble MP S Chandrakanthan (Pillayan) & Mr V Muralitharan (Karuna Amman). Development coop in the East & full implementation of 13th amendment & Provincial Councils were discussed in these meetings," the Indian high commission in Colombo tweeted on Tuesday.
The 13th Amendment provides for devolution of power to the Tamil community. India has been pressing Sri Lanka to implement the 13th Amendment which was brought in after the Indo-Sri Lankan agreement of 1987.
However, the Sinhala nationalist parties and the erstwhile Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam vehemently opposed it.
While nationalists have decried it as excess sharing of power, the Tamil Tigers criticised it as sharing of only few powers.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has shown inclination to abolish the provisions in a soon-to-be revised constitution.
The ruling Sri Lanka People's Party (SLPP) allies have mounted a public campaign for the abolition of the provincial councils system. The SLPP's Sinhala majority hardliners have been advocating a total abolition of the island's provincial council system established in 1987.
In his visit to Colombo last month, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met a delegation of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) lawmakers with whom he discussed, among other things, the role played by provincial councils in national reconciliation. The TNA is the main Tamil party in the island nation. Jaishankar also met a delegation of the Tamil Progressive Alliance.
During a joint media interaction with his counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena in Colombo, Jaishankar underlined India's backing for Lanka's reconciliation process and an “inclusive political outlook” that encourages ethnic harmony.
"As we promote peace and well-being in the region, India has been strongly committed to the unity, stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. Our support for the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka is longstanding, as indeed for an inclusive political outlook that encourages ethnic harmony," he said.
"It is in Sri Lanka's own interest that the expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity within a united Sri Lanka are fulfilled. That applies equally to the commitments made by the Sri Lankan government on meaningful devolution, including the 13th amendment to the constitution," Jaishankar had said.